Thanksgiving à l’amienoise

This past week, my oldest brother visited me in Amiens.  He arrived, groggy and exhausted from two long flights, in time to attend my first ever Thanksgiving in France.  I had organized an elaborate meal with my German-American friend, basing our recipes on family traditions and the offerings of local Picard farmers at the Saturday market.  This was only the second time I had missed a family Thanksgiving, traditionally held in Arizona, where the dusty red landscape and prickly cacti vont de pair with turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie.  Desperate to hold onto my favorite holiday and cherished traditions, while making room for the multicultural, multi-national reality that is my life, I sought to create the best of both worlds.

My German friends have been so gracious and eager to prepare meals in my apartment, making it almost a weekly habit.  The weekend previous to the Thanksgiving extravaganza, at my request, we had made Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Apfelmus (apple purée), and American apple pie.  It took us hours to grate and peel a kilo and a half of “firm-fleshed” potatoes and to fry them in a pan, while we boiled down and baked a crustful of regional apples.  The following weekend, myself and my fellow-foreign American were back at the local farmer’s market, where all the market gardeners know us by face and frequently banter with us.  On the menu for my first French Thanksgiving:

  • roast halal chicken (courtesy of Amiens nord)
  • pumpkin pie, made from scratch (canless, with a homemade crust)
  • baked sweet potato fries
  • green bean casserole
  • mashed potatoes
  • vegetarian stuffing
  • vegetarian herb gravy
  • glazed carrots

Thanksgiving dinner

The meal was delicious, a true success.  While Brian slept, the rest of us chopped multicolored carrots, peeled potatoes, cut up green beans, and tried not to be overwhelmed by the many different and strange dishes (for some) that we were preparing.  The pumpkin pie turned out wonderful, even better than the from-the-can staple that most households make.  Nothing can beat my grandmother’s cooking, but the conviviality and esprit de corps that my group of friends shared this day was worthy of the original event.  Thanksgiving is about coming together, being present in the moment, giving thanks, and sharing food.

Brian invited us all to reflect on what we were thankful for, and while this idea might have struck some as funny, it stuck with me throughout the week and throughout his visit.  I’ve decided to look back on his trip through the same lens:

I am thankful that Brian arrived safe in Amiens, without losing anything (besides a glove!), and that he got to spend a wonderful week with me, getting to know my life and friends here, and sharing with them his own experiences and culture.

I am thankful that I was able to sit for my translation thème exam on Monday, despite the fact that I had to walk forty minutes in order to arrive on time.  I hope that this exam will help me pull up the disastrous grade I received for my translation version exam on Tuesday.

I am thankful that I am able to do a Master’s in France, no matter what grades I get or how I do in the long run.  I am thankful that I speak French relatively fluently, that I am able to communicate with others and share almost everything I have on my mind.  I will be mindful to keep working on my French and try to do my best to succeed at my Master’s.

I am thankful that I am part of such a wonderful group as the Tombés d’la charrette, and that I was officially “adopted” into the community over a week ago.  I will do my best to contribute to our different events and group meetings, in order that others are both educated and empowered to make a difference in their local community.  I am thankful that Brian was able to attend both a logistics meeting and one of our sponsored events.

I am thankful to have received my vignette d’OFII, which allows me to stay a year in France on a visa de long séjour.

I am thankful to have been able to go to Paris to meet up with our cousin, Annie, who’s studying for a semester in Angers.  Even though I could only stay for a few hours, our trip to the Louvre and throughout Paris was totally worth it.  I am thankful to have a family that travels, learns about different cultures, and dares to go outside of its comfort zone.  My family is the primary reason I am the person who I am today.

Annie and Brian

Annie and Brian

I am thankful to be able to teach English, even if it’s only one hour a week.  Even the small things add up to big things, and you have to start somewhere… :p

I am thankful that I can walk everywhere in my fun-sized city, and that I am healthy enough to be able to walk around and up the five-flights of stairs to my apartment every day.

I am thankful for this beautiful holiday season in Amiens, where the marché de Noël tempts with its various regional and international boutiques, and the lights and songs and people everywhere add to the festive cheer.  I am thankful for the gorgeous light display on the Amiens Cathedral.

I am thankful for my wonderful friends here in Amiens.  You are incredible, and I am a better person for having known you.  Thanks for the delicious cooking, and the wonderful meal of Flammkuchen last night!

Categories: Amiens, Daily Life, Food, France, Paris, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photojournal: Paris and Automobiles

The Saturday before Hedi left for Tunisia, we took a day trip to visit a close friend of ours and take advantage of the City of Light.

Conservatoire de Paris

We decided to check out the very expensive neighborhood near the Place de la Bastille, walking along the Avenue de Paris until we got to the pricey, name-brand stores such as Gucchi and Prada.  (We partook exclusively in what the French call faire du lèche-vitrine – “window shopping,” – I find the French to be a bit more desperate, “window licking”).

We tried very hard to see the interior of the Opéra House, but apparently the tours would have cost us a lot of money.  We kept our entire day’s expenses to a minimum, apart from the numerous times we had to spend money on RER or Métro tickets.  (Since the RER D was closed the weekend at the Gare du Nord for “travaux”, we had had to make a very roundabout trip to get to our friend’s apartment.  As a result, Hedi and I repeatedly bought the wrong Métro/RER ticket and had great difficulty in passing the turnstiles with all the luggage he was carrying with him.)  Once we got back to the city center, we were no longer weighed down with luggage and could enjoy the mild, end-of-the-summer weather in the most expensive quartier of Paris.

Opéra National de Paris

Palais Garnier

Place Vendôme

We turned onto the Avenue de l’Opéra and then made our way to the Place Vendôme to take pictures, directly across from the Ministère de la Justice.  We all agreed that the bâtiment is frightening and imposing.  It makes me think of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame, the Disney version of course.  Check out some of the ridiculously expensive stores in the background and the ominous cloud hanging over the obelisk.  We might have just been a tad paranoid, given the location and our status as foreigners.  Ha ha.


Posing for the camera

Ministère de la Justice

Afterwards we continued on to the Jardin des Tuileries, and its benches were much more crowded than they were the last time I had taken a tour of Paris, in February of 2011.

Jardin des Tuileries

View of la Place de la Concorde, seen from across a pond at the Jardin des Tuileries

The gorgeous obelisk at the Place de la Concorde, where the famous Avenue des Champs Élysées begins, is always just as stunning, especially on a beautiful summer day in late August.  We stopped to get a drink and to catch our breath.

Obelisk at the Place de la Concorde

Drinking fountain

Petit or Grand Palais?

We then strolled down the mythic and equally expensive Avenue des Champs Elysées.  It’s my favorite place in Paris to people watch, as you can get literally within inches of people from all different walks of life.  We didn’t buy anything or loiter at any of the expensive cafés.

One thing I was not expecting to find along this Avenue, however, besides cafés and tourists with deep pockets and a penchant for shopping was renowned French car manufacturers.  But then again, rarely had I strolled along with two males in tow…

Citroën race car

Sébastien Loeb, champion racer

Shortly after admiring Sébastien Loeb’s race car, we were presented with a bizarre and somewhat enticing spectacle: “driving” beside Sébastien Loeb in a 4D environment.  It was a bit expensive (5 € per person), but the boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves.  We were strapped into cars that moved left, right, forwards, backwards.  We could smell the gasoline, watch the screen as we hurtled through the race course.  At one point we saw a puddle of water and inwardly sighed – we had a full spray of mist as we crossed!  I was slightly alarmed and rather uncomfortable, certain that I would fall out of my seat despite being tightly strapped in.  I suppose I lacked that childhood dream of racecar driving that so many little boys have cherished.

The boys

Me and my Mercedes

Before returning back to Amiens, I rested against the Arc de Triomphe, at the northern end of the Champs Élysées.  We had done a lot of walking in a short amount of time.

Arc de Triomphe

Categories: France, Paris, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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